If you spend 20 years as a district manager for a national pizza chain, can you switch careers to become a boilermaker? The answer is an emphatic “yes.” For Kristen Griffin who is finishing the fourth year of her boilermaker apprenticeship, it goes back to her younger years and a desire to weld.

“I’ve always liked working with my hands, taking things apart and figuring out how things work,” says Kristen.

That interest led her to a welding class. “I was laid off from my job and had returned to school to continue my degree. I realized pretty quickly I was no longer interested in physical therapy as a profession,” says Kristen.

Following her welding class, Kristen was dispatched to Detroit Edison as a welder through Local 85 in Rossford, Ohio. She then joined their apprenticeship program and became a boilermaker for GEM Inc. in 2016.

I really love what I do, but it’s hard to describe. The work mostly involves repairing and installing boilers, and working on tanks and vessels that contain liquids and gasses.

Kristen Griffin | GEM Inc. Boilermaker

She currently works as a foreman in the Fabrication Shop at GEM where she refurbishes and builds aluminum reactor pots, among other things. Not many young women dream of being boilermakers. Kristen feels lucky to have worked with some great journeymen who have helped her along the way.

“It is a male dominated field, but I have met some amazing people and find the work to be very rewarding,” she adds.

“My advice to women considering a career in the trades is to ‘think outside of the box.’ If you don’t mind getting dirty and you’re not scared of hard work—go for it!”